Review: Neville’s Island (Ensemble Theatre)

Venue: Ensemble Theatre (Kirribilli NSW), Jun 29 – Aug 12, 2017
Playwright: Tim Firth
Director: Mark Kilmurry
Cast: Andrew Hansen, David Lynch, Craig Reucassel, Chris Taylor
Image by Prudence Upton

Theatre review
Four men are stranded on an island, after a corporate team building exercise takes a wrong turn. Neville is the senior of the group, who tries to keep things in order, while the other three middle aged men unravel, descending into various states of hysteria as the hours pass by.

Tim Firth’s 1992 comedy has at its centre, issues surrounding modern masculinity and the anxieties it triggers, but that important social concern only becomes a serious point of discussion, very late into the piece. For at least three quarters of the duration, its characters fumble around, struggling with having to deal with their sudden exposure to the wild. Their antics could mean hilarity to some, but depending on the sense of humour one possesses, the play could also be unbearably corny, tenaciously so, for many.

The actors are well rehearsed, each one demonstrating excellent conviction, but the writing offers little in terms of nuance that could allow any of them to truly impress. Quite remarkably, the cast succeeds at making individual characters believable, even though the play’s attempts at depth are precarious at best.

The stage is consistently lively, and when chemistry does take effect, their show can offer quite compelling entertainment. Neville’s Island is determined to amuse. Even if one is not tempted to laugh out loud, there is something satisfying in its earnest and enthusiastic tomfoolery, like every well-meaning dad joke that one would hate to miss.